The Future of the EB-5 Program May Be Decided in a Senate Vote Monday

By David North on September 22, 2016

Will the heart of the Immigrant Investor (EB-5) Program be extended beyond the end of this month?

That question will probably be resolved by the leaders of the Senate prior to the scheduled vote on a continuing resolution to finance the government, which is currently scheduled for Monday, September 26. One of the possibilities is that a clean (i.e., no amendments) EB-5 extension will be part of the big spending bill.

There may not be a floor vote on the EB-5 issue.

The segment of EB-5 that allows half-million-dollar investments to create a family-sized batch of green cards for alien investors is scheduled to sunset on September 30; the rarely used part of the program calling for million-dollar investments for the same reward will continue beyond the deadline.

There is a currently a deadlock, with a quiet but fierce battle going on. The Judiciary Committee leaders (both House and Senate) want to extend only with major EB-5 reforms, while powerful urban financial interests (represented by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)), both deputy floor leaders, seek a "clean" extension, to use the Washington term for a provision with no amendments.

On the side of reform are Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), and Reps. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and John Conyers (D-Mich,). They are the powerful chairmen and ranking members of the two Judiciary committees, which handle this legislation.

The reformers want two major changes: an "integrity package" designed to open up the process and to root out corruption, and a change in the rules as to the location of the projects. Currently they are largely in highly prosperous big city locations (which is fine with Schumer and Cornyn); the reformers want the money to be spent in rural and depressed areas, as was originally intended when the program was created.

Meanwhile, the senior Democratic senator in terms of length of service, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has urged that the program be killed.

If there is to be a clean extension, the question is how long will it be — weeks, months, a year or more? The reformers will press for a short one, if there is to be one at all.

Another possibility is that the main part of the program will die, to be revived later in its current or some other form.

If the Senate moves on the issue before the House does, my sense is that that body will be under pressure to accept the Senate decision, so as to not to endanger the passage of a measure that would avoid a controversial government shutdown. The Republican congressional leadership does not want to revisit a shutdown of the government, which has hurt them in the past.